How to Earn Delta Diamond Medallion Without Spending $15,000 on Delta

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Achieving top-tier elite status with Delta requires a lot of butt-in-seat miles, creative use of partner airlines, or a significant amount of credit card spend. Unfortunately, Delta doesn’t allow you to make use of the status challenge path to reach Diamond Medallion, only Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The four Delta co-brand cards included here allow you to earn additional Medallion Qualifying Miles via credit card spending thresholds, and there is no restriction on holding more than one Delta Amex card outside of the traditional American Express application restrictions.

Delta One Business Suite A350 Window
Diamond Medallion members qualify for complimentary upgrades to Delta's luxury Delta One@ Business Suite on the new A350

Unless you frequently travel for business, it’s unlikely you’ll hit top-tier elite status without the need to supplement your organically collected MQDs and MQMs, with those from partner airlines or co-brand credit cards. Something else to note is elite status runs by the calendar year, meaning you only have until the end of the year to collect the miles needed to reach elite status for next year.

Benefits of Delta Diamond Medallion Status

The value of Delta's elite status benefits isn’t what it used to be, but it still sits top of the pack for the three legacy carriers. Diamond Delta Benefits include:

  • Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades – Complimentary Upgrades for yourself and a companion to Delta Comfort+ shortly after ticketing, to First Class beginning 120 hours (5 days) before departure, and to the domestic Delta One® experience on the day of departure
  • Choice Benefits – Select three of the listed benefits
    • Delta Sky Club® Membership (Individual membership = 1x Choice Benefit – Executive Membership = 2x Choice Benefits)
    • Delta Sky Club Guest Pass (with Credit Card Access) – If you currently receive complimentary Sky Club access via a Delta co-brand credit card, a Sky Club Guest Pass will gain unlimited complimentary access for up to 2x guests per visit
    • Global & Regional Upgrade Certificates – 4x Global OR 8x Regional OR 2x Global AND 4x Regional
    • Two Global Entry Application Vouchers (valued at up to $100 each)
    • Gift Gold Medallion Status to a friend or family member
    • 25,000 bonus miles for yourself, someone else, or a SkyWish charity of your choice
    • A $200 Delta travel gift card
    • A $200 Tiffany & Co. gift card
  • Earn 11x miles per dollar – On Delta and select partner purchases
  • Unlimited Rollover MQMs – Any MQMs earned over and above that needed for Medallion Tier qualification will rollover to the next year
  • Complimentary CLEAR membership – valued at $179 per year
  • Premium Boarding along with First Class or Delta One cabins
  • Sky Priority® including priority check-in and security line access, and expedited baggage services
  • Waived Fees for Bags and Ticket Changes
    • Waived change fees for Award Travel
    • First checked bag free for you and up to 8 companions when traveling on a Delta flight, and just for yourself when flying partners
    • Waived Same-Day Confirmed Fees
    • Waived Same-Day Standby Fees
  • SkyTeam Elite Plus status when flying on SkyTeam partner airlines
  • President’s Circle® Status in the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards®

Earning Requirements for Delta Diamond Medallion Status

To earn Delta Diamond Medallion Status requires a combination of qualifying miles or segments, and meeting a qualifying spending requirement on Delta and partner airlines, or achieving the spending waiver via a colossal $250K in Delta co-brand credit card spend.

  • 125,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) or 140 Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs)
  • $15,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) or reaching the $250,000 MQD Waiver via co-brand credit card spend

Delta-Medallion-Requirements

You can earn MQMs via four of Delta’s seven co-brand credit cards:

Each card also offers bonus MQMs at specific spending thresholds which we detail below, allowing you to collect the required MQMs through credit card spend if you can’t achieve them through butt in seat miles. The $250,000 MQD Waiver is an astronomical amount, particularly when compared to the $25K waiver for Silver, Gold, and Platinum status, but it only exceeds the spend required to collect 120,000 MQMs each year by $30,000.

Get Close to Delta Diamond Medallion Status Without Flying via Credit Cards

You can get close earning Diamond Medallion Status without flying by collecting 120,000 MQMs in a calendar year on the Delta co-brand cards, just 5,000 MQMs short of Diamond, although it requires an annual credit card spend beyond the reach of the average points and miles fan. That's a huge opportunity cost when you factor in the number of new card bonuses and rewards points $250K in credit card spending could net over the same period.

If you apply for both Reserve cards and both Platinum cards, and complete the minimum spend requirements on all four cards, you’ll net 20,000 MQMs. You’ll also collect another 100,000 MQM if you hit the highest spending thresholds on all four cards for a total of 120,000 MQMs

  • Platinum Delta Amex – 10K MQM ($25K spending threshold) + 10K MQM ($50K spending threshold) = 20K
  • Business Platinum Delta Amex – 10K MQM ($25K spending threshold) + 10K MQM ($50K spending threshold) = 20K
  • Delta Reserve – 10K MQM (welcome bonus) + 15K MQM ($30K spending threshold) + 15K MQM ($60K spending threshold) = 40K
  • Business Delta Reserve – 10K MQM (welcome bonus) + 15K MQM ($30K spending threshold) + 15K MQM ($60K spending threshold) = 40K

You’ll spend a minimum $220,000 accumulating the required MQMs if you try and achieve elite status without flying, just $30K shy of the quarter-million dollars in credit card spend needed to hit the MQD Waiver. If your annual credit card spending is high enough to cover the $220,000 needed to earn 120,000 MQMs via credit card spend, that extra $30K isn’t likely to present a considerable obstacle.

Leverage SkyTeam Partners to Earn Accelerated MQMs & MQDs

One of the most effective ways of achieving Diamond Medallion status without needing to drop $15,000 with Delta, is leveraging Delta’s partner agreements. Following the move to revenue-based mileage earning on DL-coded flights, Delta adjusted its partner mileage earning rates at the start of 2018. The new earning rates favor those folks that can uncover discount business-class fares, particularly on airlines in which Delta has a financial interest.

Take, for example, Air France. The best approach is to find a discounted long-haul business or first-class ticket, even more so if you can leverage multi-city itineraries, and you’ll earn 200% of the physical miles flown as MQMs, and 40% of the physical miles flown as MQDs. Here's a quick example:

If you find an Air France ticketed flight for $2,000 that books into a Z-fare (discounted business class fare), and that total distance flown for that itinerary is 12,000 miles, by entering your Delta SkyMiles number on the ticket/reservation you will earn:

  • 24,000 Redeemable SkyMiles (12,000 base miles + 12,000 class bonus miles)
  • 18,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (12,000 base MQM + 50% bonus of 6,000 MQM)
  • $4,800 Medallion Qualification Dollars (40% of 12,000 miles is 4,800)
  • Note: The actual cost of the ticket is completely irrelevant for earning Delta SkyMiles in this case, as you're on an Air France ticket, flying an Air France aircraft.

That $4,800 MQD gets you almost 1/3 of the way to meeting the Delta Diamond MQD requirement. Flying Delta’s partner airlines can be a lucrative exercise with the right itinerary.

Air-France-SkyMiles-Mileage-Earning

It’s important to check which partners payout MQM and MQD, as not all partners award them. Even one of SkyTeam’s founding partners, Korean Air, with whom Delta has pretty deep connections (including a joint venture in the pipeline), awards no MQM or MQD.

Korean-SkyMiles-Mileage-Earning

Below is an example with AeroMexico where you can see the bonus MQMs and MQDs earned – This was a discounted business class ticket purchased for $1,100 through Expedia.com:

AeroMexico Delta Mileage Run Earning

 

Receive MQMs From Friends & Family to Achieve Diamond Medallion Status

While this method isn’t likely to be the first approach for most of those chasing Medallion status, it allows you to utilize MQMs earned by friends or family on their Delta Reserve cards when they reach spending thresholds. As per Delta’s website:

“MQMs can be kept by the Basic Card Member or gifted to someone else. MQM gift recipients must have a valid SkyMiles account. If within 90 days an MQM recipient is not designated, the MQMs will be deposited in the Basic Card Member's SkyMiles account.”

Is It Worth Chasing Elite Status?

While all the above is technically possible, it begs the question; is it all worth it?

There are arguments both ways. While it gives those with a high annual credit card spend the opportunity to leverage that spend into top-tier elite status with Delta. If you don’t fly enough to earn elite status organically, it’s unlikely you’ll make full use of the benefits. You’re likely better off leveraging different credit card combos to double or triple your earned rewards, and burn those points on business and first-class award tickets, which grant you most of the same privileges during your journey. It also allows you to be a free agent, and give your business to the airline offering the best value, rather than the one on which you have top-tier status.

Chasing elite airline status is an almost surefire way of inducing non-rational behavior in those doing the chasing, with punters likely to spend much more than they otherwise would if they were not to worry about elite status.

Gaining top-tier elite status also tends to lock you into a single alliance, as you’re intent on taking advantage of the elite status benefits you’ve spent so much time, effort, and money-earning. It’s also worth noting that many premium rewards cards offer top-tier elite benefits. For instance, The Platinum Card® from American Express grants access to Delta Sky Club when you have a same-day Delta boarding pass.

Final Thoughts

Whether you believe top-tier Medallion status is worth chasing or not is your call. With determination, patience, and a hefty annual credit card spend, you can shoot for Delta Diamond Medallion status without earning the required MQMs and MQDs via traditional means. By leveraging Delta co-brand credit cards, and the ability to accelerate mileage earning capacity flying Delta’s partners, you can achieve Diamond Medallion. Remember to calculate the opportunity cost of chasing top-tier status vs. utilizing that spend for earning transferable points.

How to Earn Delta Diamond Medallion Without Spending $15,000 on Delta
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Comments

  • I’m not sure that chasing top tier elite status is worth it, though I wouldn’t actually know. I do think that some sort of elite status is helpful. It just allows for more flexibility and slightly preferred treatment during irregular operations. I’m only a platinum on American and it definitely has been helpful. I’m hoping to achieve silver status on Delta as well, but that’s where I’ll stop. I don’t want to be engaging in irrational behavior any more than is natural for me!

  • Not worth it unless you really value the status and you already travel enough. My guess is that more people will supplement their flying with credit card spend rather than doing so from scratch.

  • I am happy with my Chase Sapphire Reserve and earning 3 transferable points for every dollar spent on travel/dining. I have a Delta credit card, however I only have it to avoid baggage fees.

  • Really depends on your value of Delta and if you want to chase it. For someone in a major hub like Atlanta, who flies often, it can definitely make sense.

  • If you live near Atlanta upgrades are almost impossible to get to many destinations. The number of Diamonds in the ATL area is HUGE! Also, Delta has been pushing to sell its first class seats rather than give away the seats for upgrades. I read last year that Delta had managed to sell 88% of its first class seats in2016, up from less than 30% two years before. That means fewer seats for Diamond status travelers.

  • I have Platinum and still feel Diamond is way out there and too tough to achieve.

  • I’m applying for the Platinum card this week!

  • Considering all the hoops to jump through for Delta Elite, is it easier to achieve Elite using a foreign carrier on Skyteam?

  • Sebastian says:

    I see your point, but this is really an expensive thing to do this time..

  • I think math is in favor of accumulating chase UR points over what’s described in the article

  • Likely I would try with these cards this year. Thank you for the brilliant idea.

  • For those who frequently use Delta, it may be worth it. Unfortunately, that’s not me.

  • My favorite part is that you can gift the MQMs. No way am i able to spend $225k just to get the points needed!

  • Difficulty achievable, but too much work to commit myself to Delta for a year.

  • still have to spend a lot of money even if it’s outside of delta!!!

  • Beppoello81 says:

    Out of my budget for sure, but thank you for the piece, as usual.

  • miskocina says:

    A little bit out of my reach I’m afraid!

  • Of the three major alliances, I find Sky Team to have the least to offer.

  • The spend on these credit cards doesn’t seem to get you a lot of benefits on Delta. Just my personal opinion but it is interesting that some people would do this.

  • To make the most of it you then need to spend a fair bit flying Delta!! Suppose it’s worth it though if you’re keen to get status.

  • MICHAELJ1 says:

    Whoa! this is a great exploration of this subject. Nice job.

  • Andrew Bi says:

    Ever since the carriers ended mileage based earnings the value of mileage runs have steadily gone downhill. Good on AwardWallet for doing this bit.

  • @Maryjane says: “I’m hoping to achieve silver status on Delta as well, but that’s where I’ll stop. I don’t want to be engaging in irrational behavior any more than is natural for me!”

    And, you can be certain that all the credit cards are hoping for just the opposite! 🙂

  • Good point about inducing irrational behavior!

  • Imagine what you could get for that spend if you put it on a points card instead. Geez. Sympathize with status chasers but…

  • But delta miles so worthless.

  • Still pretty diamond-y

  • It sounds like a lot of work and possibly paying money too… sounds much to complicated to be worth it for me.

  • I do not fly Delta enough to benefit from it. But good analysis though!

  • It’s good to see options for those considering chasing Delta status.

  • I have had platinum status for years. At one time it was fairly easy to get 1st class upgrade but not anymore. There are always a large number of diamonds taking any excess seats. About the only thing I use it for are the sky clubs which are nice.

  • ANURAG GONELA says:

    I did a lot of flying in 2017 and crossed the required limitation for Diamond. All of 2018, I traveled a lot again but I am still not very sure what the Diamond status actually gave me ? Apart from Premium boarding, I was only upgraded 6 times out of the 70 flights I took so far. I did make use of 1 global voucher to South Korea in Delta One and it was definitely worth it.

    The only fact I decided to go for it for 2019 also ( I might be a little short for 2019 but can do a mileage run and complete it for around 2000 $) is for the Global Upgrade vouchers. These are definitely worth it , 4 of these can cost around 20 – 30k USD to Asia.

    If you are not a regular international traveler and dont care about the upgrade vouchers, I would think twice about putting all the hard work to gain Diamond Status.

    • I’ll tell you the most valuable thing that you get from achieving Diamond: Global Upgrade Certificates. I am with you on that… if they didn’t offer those, I would probably not stretch any to go for Diamond, if I weren’t going to make it “organically”.

  • I’m looking for ways to increase cred card spending without service fees, e.g., some schools accept tuition payments. Tax payments maybe 1.9%. For 2018, I’m about $1500 short on delta spend. Is that double credit example you describe available only on delta partners, not delta? Only if DL flight number? Other ideas, other than an unnecessary flight that must be completed in 2018?

  • Regina Johnson says:

    I need 5000 MQM’s to reach Silver Medallion status on Delta. What is the quickest & cheapest way to get them by the end of the year?

    • Co-brand card offering bonus MQMs or a cheap business class fare like the one listed in the post. Leaving it this late, there is no guarantee those MQM hit your account before the end of the year. On a side note, don’t spend money chasing Silver Medallion, benefits will likely not return what you spend to achieve it.

  • If you are able to make the $220k spend total to qualify for the credit card bonuses, you could certainly make the $15k MQD requirement directly in ticket purchases, instead of attempting to meet the $250k waiver.

  • I had diamond last year but mostly end up with Platinum status. I have been traveling for work since 2010.
    I made diamond last year with segments as my region is northeast and southeast so miles are not obtainable. I did fly first class 99% of the time with diamond status, had clear and the sky club free which is nice when your flight is delayed, or you need to quick do some work and grab a bite to eat. I did get the Platinum Card to have as a nice perk however all my flights for work are booked on business AMEX.

    I think if your company make you travel 70% of the time and more businesses should reimburse for the sky cub membership if you do not make status as airport restaurants are pricey and add up quickly well over the club amount for a year of travel.

    I have colleagues that fly other airlines they are all basically have the same pro’s and con’s.

  • I had never thought about using partner airlines to rack up bonus MQMs. But how would I see how many MQMs are given for the various partner flights. When I search through Delta’s site, I don’t see a way to sort out the Delta flights from the partner airlines. Expedia will show me the partner airlines, but not how many Delta MQMs they earn. What’s the trick?

    • Lucas, I rolled over 49k mqm’s last year and I was gold in mqm’s by mid January. This year I’m already platinum for next year but diamond is impossible for this year because I didn’t know about the ‘trick’ To use partners and I’m not buying that new Ferrari portafino in my delta Amex lol

      The article above is similar to another with ‘thepointsguy’ https://thepointsguy.com/guide/earn-delta-mqds-flying-partner-airlines/amp/ and both write ups are great. What you need to do is find a flight you are looking for say using Expedia and then zero in on those flights by going to the actual partner airline website. For example KLM. Then go all the way through the booking process but stop just before the payment section and look at the flight details and it will tell you the ticket code. I booked a flight with KLM and used my Delta SkyMiles telling the KLM agent it must be booked with a KLM flight number and not delta ie DL. Check deltas seat class percentage for that airline here https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/skymiles/how-to-earn-miles/airline-partners.html

      It’s a bit of leg work but worth it for that diamond if you want the 4 global upgrades. I travel to Asia a lot so it’s going to be easier for me now I know this trick. Post here if you still can’t figure it out and I have notify set up so I will seee if I can give you a full example. Good luck!

  • Trying to reach silver status. Already have waiver with Amex Platinum, easy by purchasing everything and paying bills on card and paying off in 30 days to avoid interest. Any idea how to easily reach MQMs by end of year, not a huge flyer but would like status for once to test the waters, lol.

  • I have been a diamond with Delta for more than 15years
    I flew more than 1.5 million miles during that time
    Had all the said credit cards
    Platinum card from American Express
    Business Platinum American Express from delta
    Personal platinum American Express from delta
    Reserve credit card from Delta
    The last 5 years i found that Delta airlines used to be one of the best airlines with so many perks
    It was hard for me to achieve a diamond level during those years ,but it was possible because i flew 3 times a month and used the delta credit for all my purchases to get 40k MQM
    I was spending more then 100k for delta credit cards,with the previous 25k waiver it was possible to stay diamond
    After Delta changed their marketing strategies it seems like it got harder and harder to keep my diamond level
    The perks got less and less
    This looks like it will be my last year being a diamond level .
    At this point I will say it’s not worth it to be a diamond level and spend 15k on traveling with Delta
    Platinum status should be enough
    And if you want to be in first class just buy the upgrade.
    Alex

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